Follow the R's for a mindful meditation experience

Note: the following is from the upcoming book Beautiful Practice: A whole-life approach to health, performance and the human predicament. (estimated publication: February 2014)  

The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character and will... An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.

William James

For the purist, the ideal meditation experience is simple: shine the light of your attention on your breath and keep it there. When your attention wanders, bring it back onto the breath-target with compassion and without judgment. (To put it in the simplest possible terms, this form of meditation is sometimes called “aim and sustain.”) This is the foundation practice for developing attentional stability and is the basis for other, more advanced forms of meditation.

There are many meditation teachers of course and many variations on this theme. Here is one that you might find useful. It’s built on a series of prompts, each word beginning with the letter R. This makes it simple and easy to remember.

This meditation works best when led by a teacher. Students set up a relaxed position and settle in. Once everyone is comfortable, the teacher reads the following script in a calm voice, pausing and editing as desired:

Relax your entire body... every cell, every system, every joint, every limb, every organ, every vessel. Relax the core of your body, your abdomen and your torso. Relax into your breath.

Release your expectations and your narrative... Release your explanations and your commentary... Release your predictions, your calculations and your speculations... Release your ruminations about the past and your worries about the future.

Relinquish your attachment to thoughts, ideas, outcomes and points of view... Relinquish your defenses and your judgments.... Relinquish your opinions and your attitudes.

Receive your experience of the present moment, and all that comes with it... Feel what you’re feeling; experience what you’re experiencing... Allow your body and your spirit to be permeable to the world... Receive the insecurity, the uncertainty, the ambiguity and the emotion of the moment... Receive the blessings, the love, the kindness and compassion that has come your way.... Receive the totality of your life in whatever form it takes. (Note: see Rumi's poem The GuestHouse.)

Return your attention to your breath.

Repeat this sequence as many times as desired. As you’ll discover, this guided practice is a form of relaxing work; it guides us through the process with an active, reversed effort. This sets us up to stabilize our attention and further develop our mindfulness.

Try it and let me know how it goes.